Reducing belly fat is key to optimum exercise results


By Matt D. Essex

Toward the end of 2014, you probably missed the breaking news that could impact your New Year’s resolution. CBS reported on the results of a 12-year long study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Working with subjects an average age of 58, it focused on which type of exercise is most effective for reducing belly fat as we age.

According to the study, waist circumference or “belly fat” has actually been shown to be a very important marker for many serious health conditions including: Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, COPD and metabolic syndrome.

Whether you’re an avid exerciser or one of the millions who resolved to get back in shape and be more active in 2015 — you want to ensure the type of exercise you are investing time doing provides the most bang for your buck.

The Harvard study, which was summarized by Jessica Firger at CBS News as follows:

“Long-term weight training is associated with less waist circumference increase, [while] moderate to vigorous aerobic activity is associated with less body weight gain in healthy men (over 50 years of age). Further studies are needed among women, older men and other ethnic groups to compare the frequency, volume and intensity of weight training on waist circumference change.”

As is typical with most research it ends with a cliffhanger. Design your 2015 exercise plan with this in mind: After age 40 men and women begin losing approximately 1 to 2 percent of lean body (skeletal muscle) mass per year, on average. This one seemingly basic fact actually has domino-like implications for our health.

If you decide to add strength activity to your lifestyle, here are some tips to ensure the best results:

•Don’t use the chair and the bands. There are several chair-based classes that promote themselves as strengthening. In reality, they’re just aerobic activity classes in disguise. They don’t offer enough resistance to stimulate your muscles and bones to get stronger. If you’re not chair bound your activity doesn’t need to be chair-based.

•Light weight and high repetitions won’t strengthen muscle. If you’re not pushing each muscle and bone to a point of fatigue it won’t get any stronger. Light weights and high repetitions performed to an arbitrary number is typically aerobic activity.

•Make sure your body is ready for strength activity. If you’ve never lifted weights or it’s been a while, start with an evaluation to ensure you’re ready. Work with qualified experts who specialize in strength and aging if you are a novice to strength activity. When hiring a professional make sure they are familiar with updated research and have appropriate credentials.

•Get social. The power of strength activity rises exponentially when it becomes part of your way of life. A strong social network — friends you are working out with, family who see your results and encourage you, and health professionals who help you find your motivation and inspiration — makes a huge difference in long-term success.

Matt Essex – Founder ActiveRx. He can be reached at Call ActiveRx in Westborough for additional information at 508-329-1163. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at